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Parent Tips for Practicing Reading at Home to Increase Reading Success

By Dr. Philip Levin, Program Director,
The Help Group/UCLA Neuropsychology Program

The goal of teaching your child to read should be helping to develop a fluent and confident reader who can quickly and accurately comprehend what they read and be able to use proper verbal skills such as rhythm, intonation and expression when speaking.

When children struggle with learning to read, the usual recommendations are programs that include three parts: phonemic awareness, phonics and oral reading practice. These programs are designed to teach children to break apart and manipulate the sounds in words (phonemic awareness). They then learn that these sounds are represented by letters of the alphabet, which can be blended together to form words (phonics). Finally, they practice what they've learned by reading aloud with guidance and feedback (guided oral reading). Today, educators believe that guided oral reading is one of the best and most consistent methods for improving fluency in children. While instruction in phonics and phonemic awareness programs, called "guided reading programs," are typically given by professionals with specialized training, as a parent, you can engage your child in guided oral reading techniques.

Guided Oral Reading does not refer to a specific program, rather, it occurs when students read out loud to a parent, teacher or another student, who corrects their mistakes and provides them with feedback. The process begins with choosing a book that the child can read independently. You want to find a book that your child can read while making no more than one error per page. If your child makes more than one mistake, try to find an easier book to read. While silent reading is often a requirement in school there is no evidence that shows silent, sustained reading improves reading skills for children with reading delays. Thus, daily oral reading for a period of at least 20 minutes is recommended for all children to improve fluency.

The following are five basic tips parents should consider incorporating into reading at home with their children, irregardless of reading delays. As a parent, it's important to understand that reading can be a frustrating and emotional task for a child with reading delays. These guidelines can reduce some of the anxiety about practicing reading at home and reinforce the value of daily practice for children who can be easily frustrated.

1. Never restrict reading to a bedtime activity - Bedtime stories are used to ease a child into sleep, reading practice needs to be done during a period when a child is alert and ready to learn from the process of guided reading. Try using the time as a "cool down time" after dinner or when parents arrive home from the office. It is excellent way to spend time with your child in quiet activity.

2. Preview the book with your child before reading it - It's a good idea for parents to look through the pictures with the child and have the child imagine what the story will be about based on the images. This process helps with reading comprehension and teaches the child to use the context of all of the information in book to understand its content.

3. Don't be reluctant to repeat books - Parents are often concerned that their child will memorize the text and "read" it from memory rather than decoding the text. However, an alternate way of thinking about that process is that a repetitive reading of the same book is actually helping the child to recognize words by sight. Experts estimate that the average child decodes a word three to four times before they can recognize it by sight. The more words that they can recognize by sight the quicker that they can read which is one of the goals of guided reading practice.

4. Play number and word identification games. - Parents should try to use the reading book for purposes other than just telling a story. Games, such as finding every letter "Q" on a page, or looking for everything in pairs, help children rapidly name letters and numbers, which is a key factor in developing reading fluency.

5. Immediately correcting mistakes can do more harm. - Parents can help their child more by teaching a process of how to correct pronunciation. If we instantly correct all mistakes without teaching children how to correct for themselves, they become dependant on others to help them become fluent. Try asking questions when a child stumbles over a word. Ask if the word sounds right. Ask if the word makes sense in the sentence, or if it matches the picture. This technique helps children learn to use context to correct themselves as opposed to focusing on word-by-word reading processes.

Daily guided reading practice is an important tool to help all children achieve reading fluency, and especially important if your child has a reading delay. It is recommended for children between the ages of five and nine, but can be adapted at any age. It also promotes the value of reading and perseverance through adversity. Using reading time productively will ultimately give your child lifelong tools to reach their fullest potential.


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